About this time last year I was sitting on a plane heading to Osaka in Japan by myself. It all started when my dive buddy Nick R who works in the film industry gave me ‘The Cove’ to watch. A documentary about ocean activists spying and documenting the annual slaughter of hundreds of Dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
That documentary really hit home. I had never cried so uncontrollably before. I sat there on the couch by myself and I remember thinking I am not going to say to myself “that is so sad” then get up, get a drink and go to bed and wake up the next day with a clear conscience.
I was already liasing with Sea Shepherd, painting a lot back then to donate the proceeds to their organisation. They had asked me to accompany them over to Taiji to do some more documenting, education and generate media over the controversial practice. I didn’t have to be asked twice I booked my flights and off I went.
Whoever said they speak English in Japan, lied. I found out very fast that the al cheapo Japanese translation book I bought was not exactly cutting the mustard. Although I have to say my experiences with the Japanese people on a whole were incredible.
We think they keep to themselves when they visit Australia but it’s because we don’t include them and reach out the way they do to us when we visit their country. I got lost numerous times including being stalked and followed in the pitch black of night when I was by myself and every time there was a local that would go out of their way to help me.
So what was this annual killing all about? Well if you haven’t seen The Cove I strongly recommend it. Japanese commercial fishing boats every year in September go out to sea and drive in pods of dolphins into ‘The Cove’ which is completely sheltered from the public eye and only accessible by the sea or hiking treachorous mountains.
Once the dolphins are in the cove they net off the entrance to trap them inside and then the small fishing boats pick the ones that can be used for water theme parks around the world and they are hoisted into the boats and taken to small holding pens nearby. Here they await dolphin trainers and theme park managers from around the world who select which ones they want. The rest are slaughtered, not humanely, with large spears. The sea turns dark red with blood whilst dolphins wounded or suffering from being stabbed from above try to escape. But there is no escape. Every last one is killed, babies and mothers.
The dolphins they keep for entertainment in theme parks sell for up to two hundred thousand dollars each which is great money for the local fisherman and worth the annual hunt expense. The rest of the meat is hacked down to sell to consumers, often mislabeled and toxic with high levels of mercury.
I remember doing a stake out overnight with Michael from Sea Shepherd before the first day of the annual hunt. We crawled down into these huge vertically angled concrete pylons that were sticking up from the water and waited until dawn.
I started seeing silouettes in the darkness of giant bugs, I thought I may have been hallucinating until I started to get attacked by them all over my body. As hours past the giant bugs which looked like cockroaches and were about ten centimetres big, were the last of my worries. I was so tired I tried to sleep on a concrete pylon without falling off into the sea whilst the bugs crawled all over my face and bit my legs. I had about thirty bites all over me that swelled up the following day, forget Mosquito bites these were very nasty!
Dawn finally came and we videoed the boats going out to find their first victims. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or just being attacked all night but as I looked out to the water and the sun was rising, I had a really reflective moment in my life.
I remember the pink and yellow haze glowing over the water, so calm and peaceful, and It was such a contrast to the bloodshed and torturous massacre I had seen in this very same place before. We had been awake and on surveillance now for more than twelve hours on rough concrete and were getting low on water. With the hot morning sun beating down on our faces it was time to leave.
It was a crazy trip full of police interrogation, being stalked by nationalists, hated by local fishermen, crazy driving down back streets to lose the police, stake outs, getting lost and isolated by language and communication barriers.
We did achieve reaching a lot of international media networks who started covering the story again. It was hard to say goodbye to those dolphins left in the pens knowing what life they awaited. In a way they would have been better off being killed. All in all I would do it all over again even if we made the slightest difference it was better than sitting on that couch saying that’s sad.
I don’t have anything against people eating an animal to survive. I know there are island people that do fish whales and turtles but that one animal feeds their entire family for months. As long as the animals are not being caught to the point of being endangered and there is no wasting of the animal I can live with that. What I can’t live with is mass slaughter which causes long suffering and pain to an animal, the caging of wild animals for our entertainment, and the fishing practices that endanger these species for everyone.
If you really care about marine life don’t pay to go to these theme parks. Object when your friends go, tell everyone you know about the real story behind theme parks. If you do go you’re only supporting this kind of annual slaughter that happens not only in Japan but around the world.
Dolphins and whales shouldn’t be in swimming pools forced to do stupid tricks so businesses can make money and kids can smile and laugh for the day. They should be in the ocean where they belong swimming miles each day, free. It is only then we can truly appreciate them. It’s a simple law of supply and demand. If there is no demand for dolphin entertainment it would not be profitable for this annual slaughter to take place and it wouldn’t happen.
For more information about the practise or to fight against this use the following links:
To sign a petition protesting this practise go to: